- Area and borders
- Geography – landscape, mountains, rivers
- National symbols
- Population, language
- Government, political system
- Capital and other famous cities and sites (London, York, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Lake District, Nottingham, Canterbury, Liverpool, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Stratford-upon-Avon, Loch Ness)
Area and borders
The United Kingdom is situated to the northwest of the European continent, between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. It has a total land area of 243,000 km2. The United Kingdom is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom (UK) was formed on January 1, 1801.
British Isles: 2 big islands – Great Britain and Ireland + smaller islands: the Isle of Wight, the Isles of Scilly, the Hebrides, the Orkneys
Mountains: the Highlands, the Grampian Mountains, the Cheviot Hills, the Cambrian M., the Pennines
The highest mountain: Ben Nevis, 1344m
Longest rivers: the Severn, the Thames, the Clyde
Lakes: Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, the Lake District
Concerning the use of land, there are pastures, arable land, forests etc. Natural resources include coal, natural gas, oil, limestone and others.
The climate is temperate, with a lot of rainy and overcast days.
The official name for the British flag is Union Flag, commonly known as Union Jack. The Union Flag embodies the emblems of three countries under one sovereign. The emblems that appear on the Union Flag are the crosses of three patron saints:
- the red cross of St. George, for England, on a white ground
- the white diagonal cross, of St. Andrew, for Scotland, on a blue ground
- the red diagonal cross of St. Patrick, for Ireland, on a white ground
The final version of the Union Flag, including the cross of St. Patrick, appeared in 1801, following the union of Great Britain with Ireland. The cross remains in the flag although now only Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.
The national flower of England is the rose. The flower was adopted as England’s emblem in the time of the Wars of the Roses – civil wars (1455-1485) between the royal house of Lancaster (whose emblem was a red rose) and the royal house of York (whose emblem was a white rose).
The Yorkist regime ended with the defeat of King Richard III and the two roses were united into the Tudor rose (a red rose with a white centre) by Henry VII when he married Elizabeth of York.
The national flower of Northern Ireland is the shamrock, a three-leaved plant similar to clover which is said to have been used by St. Patrick to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
The Scottish national flower is the thistle, a prickly purple flower which was first used in the 15th century as a symbol of defence.
The national flower of Wales is usually considered to be the daffodil, which is traditionally worn on St. David’s Day. However, the leek is also considered to be a traditional emblem of Wales.
God Save the Queen or God Save the King
The UK has about 64 million inhabitants. The official language is English, recognized regional languages include Scottish Gaelic, Welsh or Irish Gaelic.
Government, political system
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy with a monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, and a parliament with two houses: The House of Lords and the House of Commons. The main function of the House of Lords is to make and revise laws and to check the work of the government. Members of Parliament (MPs) represent their interests in the House of Commons. They work in Parliament and for their political party. Some MPs from the ruling party become ministers. Parliament sits for five years unless it is dissolved sooner. There are two main political parties in the United Kingdom: the Conservative Party, which is traditionally centre-right, and the Labour Party, traditionally more left-wing. The executive power is exercised by the cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister, currently Theresa May (Conservative). Recently, there has been a process called devolution. This means that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland now have their own parliaments.